Fashion Lookbook

In defense of ugly sandals

Let me say upfront that I am a very proud wearer of the original universal, sun and moon insignia blue Tevas. You’d be surprised how many outfits I can match with these sandals. 

A person wearing a pair of blue Tevas with suns and moons on them with a blue wall in the background.
[Image description: A person wearing a pair of blue Tevas with suns and moons on them with a blue wall in the background.] Via
When I was growing up, these kinds of sandals were worn exclusively by ‘nerds’, adults, or people going on a hike. Otherwise, you wouldn’t be caught dead wearing these at school (unless, of course, your parents made you and you had no other choice – speaking from personal experience here). I bought these because they were comfortable, practical, easy, and quick to put on for errands, and well, they are kind of funny. Plus, I am a sucker for a statement piece, you know, the kind that everyone asks about, which these certainly are.

I’ve come to adore these ugly sandals. For one thing, I’m not even convinced that they are as ugly as everyone says they are. Sure, I’m not usually a proponent for dressing according to the mainstream. I don’t really adhere to one singular style, but rather I take my outfits day by day, and I’m always eager to try out something new or bold. So when sandals like these popped back into the market, I figured that it might be time that I gave them a try. Since then, my collection has nearly doubled. For starters, they are so flexible you can dress them up or down. They’re subtle enough not to overshadow other parts of your outfit, but still manage as a standalone piece for bringing that extra flare to any look. These shoes even play into the whole being uncool is cool ideology. It seems that everyday the unconventional becomes more and more flattering and, honestly, I’m living for it. 

I’m also a huge fan of Birkenstocks and other double-strapped, flatform sandals. These are sandals that prioritize the comfort of the wearer. They’re meant to be worn, bent, and to scrape concrete. Other sandals are made predominantly for a photo or a 30-second walk down the runway. These kinds of sandals are barely wearable and leave my feet begging for freedom. But it’s time we realize that beauty does not have to be pain if we don’t let it. I don’t want to walk around with bleeding, blistering feet and in desperate need of a bandaid anymore. And why should I? I appreciate a shoe that I can wear all day without any sort of discomfort, because they won’t hold me back from accomplishing anything that I set out to do that day. Ugly sandals are, almost by definition, durable and trustworthy. These shoes won’t let you down when you’re counting on them to have a successful, pain free day. Because we all know that almost nothing is worse than having excruciating pain in your feet while you’re on the move day and night. Ladies, it’s just not worth it. So what if they’re “ugly”? Your feet will be too if you don’t stop and listen to their suffering. Plus, maybe they’re not considered that ugly anymore after all.

In fact, brands like Prada and Givenchy are taking this look and making it vogue, which is something I never thought I’d see in my lifetime. These shoes were at one time considered to be the absolute ugliest, but since last year, they’ve come to be considered high fashion. I see people wearing increasingly eccentric versions, like ones with 4-inch-tall platforms on the soles, and so many more. It’s almost like a revolution. 

Not to mention that Tevas in particular are made from 100% recycled plastic and plant-based materials, making them much more environmentally friendly and sustainable than most other sandals on the market. These classics are still holding strong, which is nothing short of honorable given our rapid fashion cycle. I think – and hope – that ugly sandals will slowly but surely become timeless, and maybe even be remembered as a signature of our generation.

By Vanessa Montalbano

Vanessa Montalbano is a student studying Journalism and Sociology at The American University in Washington D.C. She is passionate about storytelling and popular culture. Vanessa finds security in empathy and loves fuelling her curiosity with research.